Advice on East Bay German International School?

We're currently relocating from Berlin to the Bay Area with an elementary school aged daughter and another child on the way. What have family experiences been like recently at East Bay German International School? We're interested in long-term enrollment for kids, so hearing experiences from preschool through high school would be very helpful.  

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Unfortunately, we have not had a good experience at EBGIS in elementary this year and very genuinely advise you to look elsewhere.  GISSV or a public school with the support of the BAKS+ program would likely be better options to investigate long-term.  We have two children at EBGIS and given the number of problems in elementary school alone the viability of the school’s plan for a high school is unthinkable to us.

The reality of one of our children’s elementary school experiences in the classroom with their teacher and the curriculum this year has been the antithesis of what the school promises in its mission, namely developing outstanding academic skills and proficiency in German and English, nurturing social-emotional skills and democratic values. 

These overarching promises cannot be consistently achieved because of the pervasive retention problems and poor track record in consistently hiring high quality educators.  These systemic problems also meant it was only a matter of time before at least one of our children would suffer with an extremely poor teacher in a poor learning environment.  On the social-emotional front we’ve been plagued by daily worry about the teacher’s angry and exceedingly harsh outbursts going without redress and our child falling behind because of an absence of coherent teaching in critical subjects such as math.  Stuck in this toxic learning nightmare for many months, our child has become disheartened, losing their motivation to learn and go to school.  Our pleas to administrators and leaders have fallen upon deaf ears revealing an excessively hierarchical leadership lacking a strong moral compass and commitment to follow through on mission and curriculum objectives.  This has forced our family to consider fleeing mid-year for better options at other schools. 

In our view a major paradigm shift needs to happen at the school before the parent and student communities can be adequately served. Given the current environment long-term enrollment seems completely unfeasible.  We would therefore encourage you to find a school supported by compassion, genuine behavior and active engagement where academic quality and integrity is consistently high.  We would advise looking elsewhere as the school’s self-preservation is being so heavily prioritized at the expense of open, honest and transparent collaboration with parent and student communities.

We've been at the East Bay German International School for several years, with our child now in high school.  We're very happy with who our child has become, as a learner and as a person, and credit the school for creating a simultaneously nurturing and challenging academic environment.  The high school has an IB program and is making sure students have all the requirements to attend university in either the U.S. or Germany including the requisite language skills.  There is a community of wonderful parents and dedicated teachers.  The school successfully navigated some major challenges, pivoting from being a satellite campus of the German International School of Silicon Valley to becoming an independent school, managing a big enrollment jump with families who had heard how the school was teaching both safely and in-person in deep Covid when most other schools were on-line, and becoming an IB World School where graduates will get a bilingual IB Diploma.  No school will do everything for every child but we knew this was the best learning environment for ours after considering many other options, both public and private.

We love East Bay German International School! We also relocated from Europe and put our kids there and will stay for the foreseeable future for the community, the teachers, and the location. You will always get mixed feedback from parents since everyone has different experiences but I recommend to see if you can shadow a few classes when you arrive and if you’re happy, enroll! The kids are so happy there. Nowhere is perfect. But if German language is important, then our school tries their very best to be great! 

Our kid has been at EBGIS since preschool, and she’s happily in the elementary school now. She loves all of her past and present teachers and classmates. Our younger kid is going to join preschool next year. 

We are not German speaking household, but the school environment alone helped her become fluent in German. Kindergarten focused on playing and playful learning to prepare for academics in the 1st grade. All but English subject are in German in lower grades. It seems like a good number of classmates are multi-racial and multi-lingual (English, German + one more language), so we appreciate the international aspect of the school.

Curriculum, teaching philosophy, and classroom instruction seem to be alighted well to achieve supportive learning environment developmentally appropriate for the age, and they are particularly working well with our kid’s temperament. We are impressed how the curriculum infuses various topic of exploration as a means to teach reading and writing or math so kids don’t feel like they are drilled down spelling and grammar, for example, for the sake of learning these rules. They do both self-evaluation and teacher’s evaluation of student learning on a regular basis so kids can develop critical self awareness of how much they are learning and they think they are learning. Class size is small (12 in her current class x 2 classes in her grade), so teachers know students very well. They do a lot of inter-class or cross-grades activities, too. Teachers understand which subject our kid needs more support or is advanced enough that she needs more complexity. They seem to have back up plans for kids who finish activities or practice faster than others so they are engaged in learning. 

Families are very kind, and you can be as involved as you want or as your bandwidths allow, but we have many different types of volunteering opportunities. 

For us, small class size, exploration and experiential learning, multilingual fluency, cultural humility development in an international environment, pathway to IB, and opportunity to pursue post-secondary education in Germany are very important, and EBGIS feels the right choice. 

On a side note, because each grade is like a small cohort together for many many years, we send our kid to various summer camps not at EBGIS so she knows how to adapt to new environment with new people.

Regrettably, we largely echo the prior responder’s experience. We lucked out with our Kindergarten educators (2019-20) and a superstar first and second grade (2020-22) homeroom teacher (Klassenlehrer). Sadly all of them left. Third grade was chaos. The new homeroom teacher left mid-year. Math was not taught by a trained elementary school math teacher. After just one semester, students started to lose interest and competency. Our child forgot their 2nd grade multiplication skills and started saying, “I don’t need to know math.” We were wondering if our kid would even be at grade level if they switched schools. In the 2nd semester, German and math were taught by an intern who struggled with classroom management. Music, Art and PE were now taught in English. When we questioned the loss of teaching hours in German, the Board simply declared that it’s an “international” school with no guarantee of classes taught in German. The kids spoke mostly English in/outside of class and nobody seemed to care.

The Board’s single-minded focus was growing a high school. Never mind that most middle school grades only had single digit enrollment numbers, which the WASC re-accreditation report pointed out as one of many concerns. The high school canceled one of its grades due to low enrollment in 2023/24. While the ambition for a high school is admirable, doing it at the expense of the lower grades was not what we bargained for.

The school’s governance structure is weak. The small Board is stacked with lawyers, lacks diversity in backgrounds and is devoid of educators. It makes its own rules and has a tendency to micromanage day-to-day operations. There are no checks and balances. Bylaws can only be seen under NDA, if granted access at all.

The values listed on the website are not a lived reality, sadly. Judge for yourself: Does failing to release the results of student assessment tests and of parent/teacher surveys set an example of a ”flexible learning community - a lernende Schule?” Does ignoring feedback and muzzling parent initiatives live up to “We value the experience, skills, and knowledge of all our community members?”

We noticed no fabric of empathy or social-emotional competence at the school. If you’re lucky with a teacher who brings these skills, then things might be OK. Otherwise it’s old school authoritarianism like sending kids to the principal’s office or public chastising. 

Project-based learning advertised on the website only happens if a given teacher makes it happen. It’s not supported by processes or curricula at the school. 2nd through 4th grade have a class called “Studio,” advertised as multi-disciplinary and project-based. It takes up four periods per week, but the output we saw looked more akin to kindergarten level, and the class appeared to operate without any written curriculum. The lack of documented processes was also highlighted in the WASC report.

After hanging onto an unqualified principal for a year too long, the Board finally replaced her in 2023/24. Current parents seem cautiously optimistic, but there is a lot to clean up.

We are much happier at another school in Berkeley. Our child also attends the BAKS+ afternoon German program which is far better managed, has more qualified staff and is run by educators, with a 20 year track record of high graduation rates with DSD2 and AP credit at the high school level and a thriving community around it.

My daughter attended the preschool program at EBGIS, unfortunately there was a constant lack of communication. They would change preschool teachers all the time without letting us parents know. My daughter is a little shy and gets attached easy to her caregivers and suffered from the constant turn over and unpredictability of who will be her caregivers on any given time. The teachers themselves, always looked sad and discouraged. There was general sense of them not being supported and appropriated by the school and board members. It is a very expensive program, and the quality does not meet the high tuition. We chose this school because I had to transfer from Germany and we thought it would have been a wonderful experience and match for our 3 year old daughter. The school requires volunteer hours and which I have never heard of for a private school. When we issued our concerns it wasn’t taken seriously, and we were disregarded. Coming from Germany, we expected a certain level of professionalism that was not met. After looking at other options, we decided to not reenroll her.  Hearing from other families with older kids about the numerous systemic ongoing problems, we are glad that we made the decision to leave.

My family had many issues with the administration/management, teachers, safety, and the board when we were at EBGIS. The website is a glossy facade, and the board members who gave our family the initial tour are very kind and exemplary when you’re looking to enroll.  Then will completely flip into stonewalling you if you bring up any concerns or worries once you’ve paid your tuition.

We started in preschool and the whole program lost every teacher and director each year! And it wasn’t because they just happen to all be in unison about going home. My child was injured pretty severely twice at school where I had to take them to the doctor immediately after school. And when I asked the admin and teachers for me to come in to the classroom to observe to see how the day works, they wouldn’t let me. Which is part of your parent rights in the US. So they’re not allowed to deny you coming into your child’s preschool class. They also didn’t see the injuries happen somehow and could not tell me how they happened. I would look at Berkeley children’s center for preschool. It’s a lovely place with international families. All the local schools will be very diverse in cultures, languages, and more. Public schools are free and you won’t be treated like you would be at EBGIS.

We have a child in preschool. First year was a bit chaotic but so far it’s been great. School has new leadership and communication has improved. Our child is very happy and loves going every day. His teachers are great and provide loving care. We hope most of them come back next year but we anticipate some changes. We can’t really speak for higher grades since we don’t have any experience there.  

We've had our daughter in EBGIS for three years of preschool and will be advancing to Kindergarden next year. We plan enroll our youngest as well and to stay with the school through grade school at least. We've been very happy with the school, teachers and community. We're a half German family and have been glad to see our daughter remain equally comfortable in English and German. The teachers are very kind and dedicated. They strike a good balance between structure and creative activities for the kids. The classroom dynamic is always calm and warm. As parents, we've particularly appreciated the community that has formed around the school. It's been great to get to know the other parents and to connect to a German speaking group as we have.

All that said, some of the criticisms in this thread are valid and worth considering. Our biggest issue has been teacher turnover and its knock on effects, which was quite bad initially, but has been largely addressed this by the principal who started this year. There's more to be done, but it's been very nice to see the progress and it's really not an issue for us anymore. On the whole, I think it's important to realize that the school is a new institution, only a few years old. Lots of things are immature and in need of improvement. Processes, traditions and culture are all being developed. Community participation is a big component of that. For some families, that's a good thing. For others, not so much.

Both of my kids go to EBGIS and we are very happy there. My son did 3 years of preschool plus his Kindergarten year and is now in first grade. My daughter started preschool this year. We have been happy with the teachers, built a great community, and the school has been very supportive. It is true that there are some staff changes every year or two. Teachers are predominately recruited from German-speaking countries, which means limited visas, culture shock etc. and not everyone stays. Still, my son had consistent teachers throughout his 3 years in preschool. The preschool program had a challenging school year 22/23. However, the program is well-staffed now and has a new program director. We have been very happy with preschool this year for my daughter. The kindergarten program has a very experienced director and my son thrived in his kindergarten year. He is now in first grade, and again, we have been very impressed with his teachers and the way they try to tailor lessons to different learning styles, etc. The school also has an Executive Director as of this year, and she is bringing a lot more structure, strategy, and communication to the school.

When we first enrolled our kids, we hoped that this would be our dream school and offer our children a quality bilingual education. We hoped to give our children the gift of another language. We put all of our trust in this school and its leaders. We wish we had weighed out the benefits of bilingual education with the downfalls of choosing a school that does not have a good track record of delivering what it promises.

There is a lot of English spoken in the classroom and our children's German language abilities have not made adequate gains to merit the high annual costs of their attendance. Academically, our kids complain of being bored in class and often feel unsupported. My youngest has recently started to complain about no longer wanting to go to school.

We found it necessary to hire a tutor for German and math because multiple years of high turnover and instability have hindered academics. At times, we have felt helpless as parents. The school has repeatedly told us that with more time, we would see more academic progress however that has not been the case. Instead, our family continued down a road that we wish we would have turned away from long ago. We regret the trust and hope that we allowed ourselves to cling to. Sadly, given our experience, we would not recommend this school to your family. We regret our choice and are now trying to figure out what is next for our family.